An army major, a soldier and two militants were killed in two separate encounters in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Kulgam districts on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday. A soldier was also injured in the firefight. The Army said that along with the Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police, it launched two separate operations at Gopalpora in Kulgam and Zoipora in Shopian on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday.
“Two militants walked into the ambush that was laid near a bridge and were killed after a brief encounter,’’ said an Army official about the Gopalpora encounter. The militants were identified as Aquib Yatoo of Gopalpora and Suhail Rather of Tantraypora Yaripora. Rather, a student of Class IX, had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen five months ago.
Auqib, a Class X student, had joined militant ranks eight months ago. Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: “We also recovered two weapons from their possession.’’ A police spokesman said Aquib was involved in an attack on cash van of the J&K Bank at Pombai in which five policemen were killed and two civilians lost their lives.
“Suhail was involved in instigating people and firing indiscriminately at security personnel as part of a mob,’’ the police spokesman said. Later, at the funeral of Aquib, militants fired several rounds in the air to salute their slain associate.
Six kilometres from Gopalpora, an Army Major and two soldiers were injured when militants opened fire on an Army patrol in Zoipora village. Later, the Major and one of the injured soldiers succumbed to injuries in the Army’s 15 Base hospital. The Army identified the officer as Major Kamlesh Pandey and the soldier as Sepoy Tanzin Chhultim, both from the 62 Rashtriya Rifles.
Officials said the Army and the police had information about the presence of three militants in the area and a cordon-and-search operation was launched at 2 am. As the cordon was being laid, the militants fired on the patrol and fled under the cover of darkness.
Major Pandey had joined the Army in June 2012 and hailed from Almora in Uttarakhand, the Army said. He is survived by his wife and a two-year-old daughter. Sepoy Tanzin Chhultim, 25, of Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh had joined the Army in September 2012. He is survived by his parents, the Army spokesman said.
The mortal remains of the soldiers will be taken to their native places for last rites with full military honours, he added. The Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack and said the militants who participated in it would be rewarded for killing the Army officer and the soldier.